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Quips, queries, and querulous quibbles from the quirky mind of Don Kahle

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Vaccine locks your garage

April 15th, 2021 by dk
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For several months, all Oregonians have faced three questions regarding the COVID-19 vaccine. Can I get it? Should I get it? Will I get it? Since the answer was “no” to the first question, many of us ignored the second two. That is about to change.

Beginning Monday, April 19, all Oregon adults will be able to schedule their vaccine shots. It’s time to answer the last two questions. Clinics, pharmacies, hospitals, and special sites have perfected the “Fauci ouchie” choreography. You can schedule an appointment quickly. The shot takes minutes. You’ll marvel at the efficiency.

Since we’re marveling, stand amazed at what scientists have accomplished.  They developed multiple vaccines in less than a year. As of Monday, 120.8 million Americans have received at least one dose. The number of fatalities related to vaccinations is stunning: one. (Six women have encountered blood clot complications from the Johnson & Johnson shot, out of 7 million J&J doses administered. J&J shots are currently unavailable until more is known.)

Being fully vaccinated doesn’t repel the virus. It could still get inside you, but it won’t multiply enough to make you sick. Masks will remain necessary until we reach herd immunity. That could take a while.

Some people are planning a wait-and-see approach, as if 120 million successful “test cases” hasn’t proven efficacy or safety. Some just don’t like the idea of being poked with anything sharp. Others fear there’s a conspiracy embedded in this campaign. (For what it’s worth, vaccinated friends report that it hasn’t improved their 5G reception and no payments from George Soros have arrived.)

You might think that you’re young, fit and hale — not the sort of person this coronavirus prefers killing. But that’s not a reason to skip the shot. It’s evidence that you need to better understand how the virus works. Maybe a simile will help.

This virus is like a souped up Tesla with dangerous and annoying capabilities. It has a universal remote can open any garage door, unless the garage door’s circuitry has been upgraded. The Tesla moves into unprotected garages for two purposes. It needs to hook into power to keep going. It also wants to use the stored tools to tinker with its own gadgetry. It also sometimes burns down the garage before driving away.

It’s the self-tinkering that should worry us most. All viruses mutate as they multiply inside a host body, but COVID-19 has demonstrated a knack for spawning variants that are more deadly. (Some see this pattern as evidence that it originated in a lab and not in an exotic meat market. Such concerns don’t alter the imperatives at hand.)

Could this Tesla upgrade its remote to regain access to locked garages? Only while inside an unprotected garage. That garage could be you, if you don’t get the shot. Getting vaccinated locks your garage. We must deny this Tesla space to recharge and soup itself up in dangerous new ways. If enough garages become inaccessible, it’ll eventually stall on the side of the road, stranded and harmless. That’s the goal.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at www.dksez.com.

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How the other filibuster ended

April 11th, 2021 by dk
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Much ink has been spilled over the last few months about whether Democrats might bring to an end the Senate’s filibuster tradition. Keep in mind that it is nothing more than a tradition. Filibusters are not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution. 

It’s true that our founding fathers wanted to avoid the tyranny of the majority, but they rested in the belief that competing ambitions and general bonhomie would suffice. They never dreamed that a minority of lawmakers would consider halting all government business and declaring themselves satisfied.

What might happen if the majority gains the power to assert its will without active participation from the minority? Recall George Santayana’s warning, slightly revised: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to reading about it in one of Kahle’s columns.”

In the decades after the Civil War, the House of Representatives had an obstruction strategy employed by the minority that will seem all too familiar to Oregonians. They called it a filibuster, and it was a Republican who put a stop to it.

The practice at the time was to begin each session with a courtesy measure that doubled as a roll call. Unfortunately, the precursor to Microsoft Excel used since the first Congress had only two input options — yes or no. There was no way to vote “present.” Those who refused to answer were effectively marked absent, even if they were standing beside the clerk.

Once tallied, if the official ledger showed too few recorded responses to constitute a quorum, business was adjourned. It was no different from how Oregon legislators in the minority have obstructed lawmaking in Salem several times over the past few years. No different except that olden lawmakers marked themselves absent but didn’t bother staying away.

House Speaker Thomas Brackett Reed, a Republican from Portland, Maine, ended the practice in January, 1890. Reed was a master parliamentarian, similar to Mitch McConnell today. When his party was in the minority, he led the obstruction by refusing to have his presence recorded.

When Republicans surged into the majority and he became Speaker, he knew just what to do. Reed instructed the House clerk to count and record whoever was present. This must have involved inputting calligraphied comments in the spreadsheet cell notes until quill feathers jammed the keyboard.

As recounted by David Litt in The Atlantic last month, Kentucky’s James McCreary protested, “I deny your right, Mr. Speaker, to count me as present.” Reed’s response: “The Chair is making a statement of fact that the gentleman is present. Does he deny it?”

Democrats then tried to hide under their desks or leave the chamber. Three days of parliamentary maneuvering ensued. Tactics included locking the chamber doors from the outside (this is true) and probably (just guessing here) jamming cell phone reception and suspending members’ UberEats delivery accounts. The House of Representatives lost its filibuster 131 years ago and no one remembers they ever had one.

Will legislative leaders in Salem lock the chamber doors to keep the minority present, ending their de facto filibuster? Probably not, but it wouldn’t be the first time.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at www.dksez.com.

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Matt Gaetz has a lesson for us

April 10th, 2021 by dk
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Matt Gaetz has a lesson to teach us. He learned it from Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell. Liberals have been slow to recognize it. There’s work to be done.

Three-time Congressman Gaetz has always been one of Trump’s most vociferous supporters. He may soon face a federal indictment for raping an underage woman and possibly paying her for it.

His was the lone vote against an anti-human trafficking bill in Congress in 2017. Maybe now we know why. His was one of two votes in Florida’s 2015 legislature against outlawing “revenge porn.” The only other vote against the law came from Gaetz’s roommate.

Gaetz later defended Democrat Katie Hill when she was ensnared in a sex scandal in 2019. “He was one of the few colleagues who spoke out after a malicious nude-photo leak upended my life,” Hill wrote in Vanity Fair. Hill resigned her seat. Gaetz insists he will not do the same.

Gaetz has only a couple vocal defenders on Capitol Hill. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) emit a scent of scandal that’s unmistakable to their Congressional colleagues. And there has been nary a peep from the former president, despite attempts to tie it all to the outrage du jour — “cancel culture.”

Nothing about Gaetz’s behavior has surprised insiders around Washington. Attorney General Bill Barr was briefed about the accusations in 2020. Barr was careful to avoid being photographed with the 38-year-old, but did not impede the investigation. Gaetz is known as a carouser and may have shown other Congressmen nude photos of his sexual conquests.

We call Gaetz shameless, but that’s not quite right. The difference matters. What Gaetz lacks so prominently is self-shame. The same has always been true of Trump, but an inability or refusal to self-correct is not limited to sexual peccadillos. Mitch McConnell expresses glee where compunction should be. He openly wields his power without self-shame — until others stop him.

They refuse to limit themselves, because they view self-restraint and self-esteem as the recent inventions that they are. Just a few centuries ago, shame was exclusively what society doled out to aberrant members.

Shame is as old as human moral codes, but “being ashamed” — self-shame — first appeared in print around 1800. If you told an American colonist that he “should be ashamed of himself,” he’d be confused. Self-restraint gained popularity around the same time. (What we call self-control is “temperance” in the 1611 King James Bible.)

For almost all of human history, shame has been an outward action performed to correct an individual or group, not an inner feeling that may or may not cause change. (Don’t get me started on how the self-esteem movement has upended the esteem movement.)

Put another way, collective shaming is the baby in the “cancel culture” bathwater. We can and must do more than simply shake our heads or raise our fists. It’s our job to stop them! We should learn that lesson and thank Mr. Gaetz for teaching us.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at www.dksez.com.

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Congress’s Convoluted Summer

April 3rd, 2021 by dk
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Here’s an entirely speculative survey of how agendas and timelines may overlap and intersect for the 117th Congress this summer. Voting rights, filibuster reform, infrastructure bills, Congressional earmarks, and even competing with China could factor in.

Congress seldom worries about missing a deadline. Continuing resolutions have become a way of life in Washington. But this summer will be different because of decennial redistricting. The states need time to redraw Congressional districts before party primaries, ahead of 2022 midterm elections. All the pieces must fall into place this summer.

For Democrats, everything revolves around the For The People Act, a.k.a. H.R. 1, which passed the House a month ago. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has already given the bill the honorific first place on the Senate’s agenda, but no one knows when S 1 will receive its floor vote.

The For the People Act would block Republican efforts to curb voting rights at the state level. It addresses gerrymandering, dark money, early voting, and campaign finance reforms. It doesn’t reduce the national voting age to 16 or grant DC statehood, but it does almost everything else.

Republicans wouldn’t vote for this bill even if it included putting Donald Trump on the dollar bill. They are determined to suppress votes in every way possible. They have promised to filibuster the bill in the Senate and no one believes they won’t. It won’t fit as part of a budget reconciliation bill. So Democrats’ only hope involves first reforming the filibuster.

Here’s where timelines overlap. Democrats are not yet unanimous on the need to alter or abandon the filibuster. Public opinion isn’t demanding it — yet. The case must be made, both internally and externally.

On the inside, Democrats are reintroducing earmarks, rebranded as “member-directed spending.” House Republicans have agreed to not oppose them. Senate Republicans may not go along, but that might not matter. That could change the messaging, but little else.

What do earmarks have to do with voting rights or filibuster reform? Earmarks could help persuade Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) to follow Schumer’s lead. Democratic Senators in safely blue states could conceivably devote their earmark allowances to projects that help West Virginia and Arizona.

On the outside, the moral case against the filibuster is unfolding. It has consistently been used to suppress civil rights. Thanks to the filibuster, Congress has never made lynching a federal crime. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) foiled the last attempt in 2020.

Internal and external pressure will mount if the Senate cannot pass something simple — a legislative lay-up. Look for a package of measures to strengthen local companies against Chinese competitors. It could be a wish-list of long overdue infrastructure projects.

If and when Republicans refuse to support a bill that promises benefits for everyone, legislative disfunction will become undeniable. Once Republican obstruction is exposed, filibuster reform will be thrust onto the Senate’s agenda, as if they had no choice. 

All this must happen before summer’s end because redistricting and 2022 elections will cement changes in Congress that could last a decade.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at www.dksez.com.

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Biden’s Presser Showed Maturity

April 2nd, 2021 by dk
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President Joe Biden held his first official press conference last week. Supporters and detractors alike wondered aloud why it took a full two months for Biden to take questions from a solo podium with cameras rolling. Was his staff protecting him from possible gaffes? Has he lost a step with age?

We saw quite the opposite. Biden hasn’t lost his folksy charm, but he wielded the power of the presidency with a measure of maturity not seen in decades. Consider this: Every president since Bill Clinton has campaigned on a promise of vigor, usually accompanied by youth. Donald Trump tried to tag Biden as “Sleepy Joe” to keep that pattern intact.

For me, the most revealing sentence from his hour at the microphone came early. Yamiche Alcindor from PBS had asked about immigrants at the border. Biden surveyed his administration’s response. Then he paused, saying, “Am I giving you too long an answer? Because if you don’t want the details —.” He waited for her follow-up.

His question was not rhetorical. He heard himself talking. He paused for permission before plunging into details. He showed respect for the question and the questioner. This is not the Joe Biden we knew in the Senate, who would talk and talk until somebody stopped him.

Biden’s disciplined answers mirror his administration’s careful execution of its agenda. It was as if Biden spent those eight years standing behind President Obama — he of soaring rhetoric and modest follow-through — pondering how he would do things differently.

Biden’s answers repeatedly acknowledged and incorporated duration. Solutions won’t come instantly. Strategies will unfold over time. Distractions — even heartbreaking ones — won’t alter his course or sap his resolve. Remember how the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill transfixed the public and distracted Obama as midterm elections were heating up?

Biden understands how telegenic tragedies can consume the clock. He won’t let headlines dictate how he spends his political capital.

Maturity has taught him how to use duration as a lever — setting incremental goals and then exceeding those framed expectations. He knows how long things take. He surely knows he can’t control current events and every news cycle, so he doesn’t try. Currents can carry you away and cycles can turn you around. His focus doesn’t waver. 

(It’s too bad no one asked him what he learned from his unannounced, two-hour session with some of the nation’s foremost historians. His response might have made news.)

Only one aspect of the news conference seemed genuinely surprising to me. He referred to his predecessor repeatedly without honorifics. He was simply “Trump” — not “President Trump” or “Mr. Trump.” This cannot be accidental. Nor was this aside — “Oh, God. I miss him so much….”

It’s not like Biden to disrespect anyone who held the office of the presidency. Blaming his predecessor for troubles won’t last long or wear well. It hasn’t been his habit, so it must be strategic. I think he was trolling Trump, like Obama did at an awards dinner in 2011.

If Trump can be goaded into roiling news cycles again, Biden’s team can quietly execute its agenda.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at www.dksez.com.

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Greater Glenwood could be in our future

April 1st, 2021 by dk
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Don’t look now, but big news is developing in Glenwood. Springfield Economic Development Agency this week voted to hear from three groups next month with redevelopment proposals for assembled lands north Franklin Boulevard and east of I-5.

The Eugene Emeralds want a riverfront baseball stadium. A second proposal features a soccer stadium as part of a sprawling 40-acre complex, including housing, a hotel, a business incubator for high-tech industries, and park improvements.

The star of the show so far seems to be what Greg Vik, Lutfi Thabet, Joel Andersen and Allen Lonstron have in mind for the 9.5-acre lot where Ramsey-Waite Powersports is located. Glenwood Development, LLC wants to build on that parcel and they want to move quickly.

They are proposing an ambitious project that surpasses anything we’ve seen in this part of Oregon. The hotel and conference center envisioned wants to be 19 stories tall. Drivers on I-5 and boaters on the Willamette River could soon be looking at the tallest Oregon building outside Portland. And I do mean soon!

The development team proposes to use Opportunity Zone investments to finance the entire project. Specific timelines are attached to this funding mechanism. Projects must be completed less than three years after they are announced for the investors to receive all promised tax advantages. This project could be entirely built out by 2024.

Imagine 500 housing units, with a healthy portion of them set aside for low-income and workforce households. Homes For Good already has plans for more than 100 affordable units on the parcel immediately southwest of the Ramsey-Waite land.

Beside the hotel and 55,000 square-foot conference center, the developers propose five other buildings, each rising seven stories. They hope to attract boutique retail, restaurants, a grocery store, and possibly a movie theater. Riverfront access will feature biking and jogging trails and a 30,000 square-foot plaza.

The hotel itself will have 378 rooms, three restaurants, two bars, a microbrewery, a fitness center, a swimming pool, and a skybridge to an 800-space parking garage. The parking structure will be made from cross-laminated timber — the first of its kind.

Steve Moe doesn’t like it when people call him the unofficial mayor of (unincorporated) Glenwood. He lives in Springfield now, after all. But he welcomed these proposals enthusiastically. “We’ve been talking about development in Glenwood for a lo-o-o-ong time. It’s good to see something finally happening.”

It’s still just talk, but things are moving quickly. SEDA directors may agree on a plan worth pursuing before the end of April.

Glenwood Development, LLC hopes to break ground in December. Their proposal requires less than a quarter of the land assembled by SEDA for redevelopment. There could still be room for a baseball stadium or a soccer field or both.

It all might happen with breathtaking speed and soaring ambition. If we someday find ourselves referring to this economic region as Greater Glenwood, it will be because of decisions that could be made in the next few weeks.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at www.dksez.com. Three current proposals for Glenwood redevelopment can be viewed at http://www.springfield-or.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/2021-03-15-SEDA-Agenda-Packet.pdf

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Remembering Seussapalooza

March 31st, 2021 by dk
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You may have heard some things recently about Dr. Seuss. Much being said is untrue. Set aside the spurious perfomative outrage. There’s one person who would not be displeased by it all. And that’s Theodor Seuss Geisel, whose birthday spurred all the sudden attention.

Dr. Seuss was a consummate salesperson, for both products and ideas. Those entrusted with the empire he left behind have followed very clearly in his footsteps. Whatever else the current imbroglio represents, it’s also marketing genius.

First the facts — though they won’t prove very important. To mark Geisel’s 117th birthday on March 2, Dr. Seuss Enterprises announced that they were pulling six lesser titles from the 60-plus books that bear his name. They removed them voluntarily — out of the blue, even — to remove caricatures that are out of step with modern sensibilities.

A private enterprise, started by Geisel’s wife after his death in 1991, made a business decision and announced it on his birthday. For two weeks since, Dr. Seuss has been all anyone can talk about.

Far from being canceled, Dr. Seuss Enterprises pulled off the marketing coup of the year. A few titles were pulled, but dozens of others are selling at more than triple their usual pace. Ebay is offering many first edition titles for $10,000 or more.

The National Republican Congressional Committee is sending a copy of “Cat in the Hat” to donors who give $25 or more to the GOP. Republican Senator Ted Cruz will send you a signed copy of “Green Eggs and Ham” for $60 or more.

Tall red-and-white striped hats off to Dr. Seuss and his brand’s keepers, for seizing the zeitgeist and reaping a bonanza. They left just enough room for performative outrage to promote their business interests.

Disney and Michael Jackson used this “two bites of the apple” marketing strategy over and over in the 1990s. A film or an album would be released to great fanfare. After sales began to decline, a “controversy” would pop up over a princess’s underwear or a background voice murmur, boosting a second sales surge.

I’m watching this faux-controversy with special interest because I was part of a Dr. Seuss ruse in Eugene about 25 years ago. My family and I were still newcomers, still discovering the area’s hidden treasures. One deficiency stuck in our craw. The library was cramped and outdated, but repeated efforts to replace it had failed.

A group of us concocted and promoted an event we called Seussapolooza, to mark Geisel’s birthday. We invited movers and shakers to read their favorite Dr. Seuss title to assembled children inside our cramped library. We wanted to run it for 24 hours, but that proved too ambitious. And unnecessary. 

Once the town’s decision-makers were inside the library, they could see for themselves how behind the times the facility had gotten. That was the real goal, and it worked. Not long after, they settled on a feasible strategy to replace the library, using urban renewal funding. We can all thank Dr. Seuss, because he may have played a role in that.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at www.dksez.com.

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Deeper than Hatred

March 30th, 2021 by dk
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This week’s tragedy near Atlanta is not only a story about a troubled young man on a shooting rampage. It’s not just a hate-crime story, targeting Asian Americans. It’s more than the latest instance of domestic terrorism. It represents what could be a teachable moment for white evangelicals about the mysterious workings of the human mind.

We have here an opportunity to discuss and deepen our understanding of repression, sublimation, displacement, transference, and overcompensation. These concepts have been around for a long time. Shakespeare wove them into Hamlet: “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”

Our modern understanding of the inner life has not reached or has been rejected by too many white evangelicals. Each instance of a pastor railing against sexual improprieties while having an affair with the choir director has been treated as a one-off. No pattern is acknowledged.

Robert Long may be the man of the hour in this way. 

He’s not a church leader, but he’s a devout believer. The 21-year-old may have frequented the three massage parlors he attacked or he may have only fantasized about it. He admitted to the shootings, described himself as a sex addict, and claimed he was trying to eradicate whatever temptation the parlors may have posed to others.

We can all agree his plan to accomplish that goal was extreme. It wouldn’t take much to add that his denial of his urges contributed tragically to his actions. We all repress urges that don’t make us proud. Not all of us have murderous urges, but that’s really a distinction without a difference at the level of how our minds operate.

Urges denied don’t disappear. They travel inside our psyches, getting stronger as they go. Repressing the feelings without acknowledgement can amplify their eventual expression. Where and how those urges resurface are as different as the people experiencing them. What’s common is that they don’t dissipate in the darkness of denial — quite the opposite.

They may attach to another person — transference — who had nothing to do with the original urge. They may pop up in a seemingly random way — sublimation. They may turn inward, provoking self-shame and suicidal ideations. They sometimes manifest in heartbreakingly destructive ways, as they did this week in Atlanta.

What must be added to that story is that we shouldn’t be surprised. And that we’re all vulnerable. The complexity of our inner thoughts is deeply and universally human. That message by itself may be reassuring enough to prevent (some) future rampages.

We all have errant thoughts and desires. If they aren’t acknowledged, they can become aberrant and then abhorrent. That capacity is contained inside all of us. It is the human condition.

This virus — it’s a useful and timely metaphor — spreads best when it’s not believed or acknowledged. Admitting a shameful thought is akin to washing your hands. It won’t stop the virus, but it keeps things from getting worse.

If just a few choose to seek therapy, confront or confide their dark desires, the world will become slightly safer than the one Robert Long found himself navigating.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at www.dksez.com.

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Does a falling tree make a sound?

March 29th, 2021 by dk
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It’s been seven months since the Holiday Farm wildfire. If you’ve visited or passed Blue River in the past month or two, you probably noticed trees festooned with pale blue dots. Those trees are marked for removal. Some look charred at their base but with healthy crowns, causing locals to worry that too many trees will be cut.

Evaluating which trees pose potential road hazards is complicated. “Getting a second opinion” on every tree would slow the clean-up process intolerably. I was curious how incentives have been aligned to favor particular outcomes. So I sent a list of questions to Elsa Gustavson at the U.S. Forest Service. I haven’t heard back from her, but here are my questions.

Regarding the crews who are evaluating and/or cutting the blue-dotted trees:

  • Is any portion of their remuneration determined (directly or indirectly) by the number of trees cut?
  • Do contracts codify alacrity by rewarding speed or punishing tardiness?
  • Do any contracts acknowledge that a certain-width path must be cut (healthy or not) to gain access to a hazard tree?
  • Are healthy trees that must be removed to gain access to hazard trees identified and tracked separately?
  • Once a tree is cut, are there additional fees earned for removing, chipping and/or processing the logs?
  • For trees that cannot be milled for lumber, who pays for the felled timber to be processed or disposed?
  • Who receives payment for any lumber cut from the felled trees, and how is the accounting handled?
  • Is the owner of standing tree always the owner of the resulting logs? If ownership changes in the process, how is that transfer documented?
  • Who determines the fate of a tree that is on private property, but is tall enough to block a public roadway if it fell?
  • If a tree poses a public hazard but stands on private property, what options are given to the owner and how are those options conveyed? How specific and timely must the owner’s response be?
  • Do any liabilities for tree-related hazards endure for contractors or their bond agents after the contracted period?
  • Are there best practices available in contract language that rewards crews for preserving as many trees as possible? (For example, if every felled tree obligated the contractor to grind the stump six inches below ground and cover with replacement soil, contractors would think twice before cutting even one tree.)
  • In short: If a tree is exactly in the midpoint of all evaluation factors, will contractors see greater incentives to cut or keep that one particular tree?

I have one more question, not for the Forest Service but for all of us. Why does public safety outweigh all other human concerns?

Life is full of hazards. Every tree is dangerous. A splinter can lead to infection and possible death. Healthy limbs don’t often fall on people, but the chances of something falling from above is never zero. We should all wear helmets all the time.

If we protect life so well that it’s no longer worth living, what good is that?

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at www.dksez.com.

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Upcycle the R-G Printing Press

March 12th, 2021 by dk
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Nobody in Eugene wanted to see Hayward Field go, but that day came in 2018. Construction crews cleared the way for a new structure that is destined to become the most photographed icon of Eugene. Remnants of the old structure were salvaged and strategically distributed across town. That way, everyone can be reminded of something that was loved until it left.

I hope the owners of The Register-Guard follow a similar plan for their newly idled pressroom on Chad Drive.

Beginning this week, production of our region’s daily newspaper has been relocated to Vancouver, Washington. I’m not among those who lament the move. I owned a weekly newspaper here for more than a decade. We printed at The Springfield News until a commercial printer in Albany made us a better deal. Here’s hoping the consolidated production savings can fund another reporter’s salary.

What will become of the actual machinery that whirled and hummed every night for decades? It can’t be mothballed for three reasons. First, have you priced mothballs recently? Imagine five stories of Chuck E. Cheese balls that smell like your grandmother. Second, it’s not worth preserving. The future of newspapers won’t look like its past. Third, that Mitsubishi Lithopia offset press has been a headache to maintain almost since it was installed.

Shortly after the Bakers bought that gleaming press for $14 million in 1994, the U.S. Dept. of Commerce slapped an antidumping duty on a related company. Mitsubishi parts became difficult to source, so our press operators have had to fabricate or jury rig parts for the last 20 years. 

So now, here we are. What can the remnants of that press be jury rigged into for a public that loved what it spit out every night? We’re adept at upcycling in Eugene. We know how to get one more life out of items that would otherwise be discarded. Just ask anyone at BRING or MECCA or St. Vinnie’s. It’s what we do here.

Hayward bleachers are being cut into wooden medals to be given to runners who finish this year’s Eugene Marathon. Brian Obie will make benches out of Hayward’s exit steps and place them near the Nike Store. More than a dozen other organizations have been granted Hayward remnants, including KIDSPORTS and the Eugene Airport.

Surely there are dozens or hundreds of Register-Guard readers or alumni who would find a new use for some part of the newspaper’s pressroom. Could newsprint spindles be made into restaurant tables? Ink barrels might be refashioned into bollards or planters. Conveyor lines might live again inside the airport’s next luggage carousel.

Once we get rolling, this creative community can get more fanciful with reuse strategies. Individual rollers can become stainless steel rolling pins. Portions of the towering structure can be incorporated into the rebirth of EWEB’s steam plant. Leftover plastic bundle strapping will be perfect for a Capitol insurrectionist Halloween costume.

I, for one, would love to have the switch or button to be used whenever somebody hollered “Stop the presses!” — now that they have.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at www.dksez.com. He owned the Comic News 1995 – 2005.

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